NASA to Test Innovative Supersonic Decelerator

NASA workers at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wearing clean room "bunny suits," prepare the LDSD test article for shipment later this month to Hawaii. LDSD will help land bigger space payloads on Mars or return them back to Earth. (Credit: NASA/JPL)
NASA workers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wearing clean room “bunny suits,” prepare the LDSD test article for shipment later this month to Hawaii. LDSD will help land bigger space payloads on Mars or return them back to Earth. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL PR) — On April 9 reporters got a chance to don “bunny suits” (protective apparel that sometimes makes people look like large rabbits) and enter a NASA clean room at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. In the room is NASA’s latest technology for landing large payloads on planets like Mars or Earth, being processed for shipping prior to testing next June.

NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project will be flying a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space this June from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The LDSD crosscutting demonstration mission will test breakthrough technologies that will enable large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars, or other planetary bodies with atmospheres, including Earth. These new technologies will not only enable landing of larger payloads on Mars, but also allow access to much more of the planet’s surface by enabling landings at higher altitude sites.

The LDSD is one of several crosscutting technologies NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate is developing to create the new knowledge and capabilities necessary to enable our future missions to an asteroid, Mars and beyond. The directorate is committed to developing the critical technologies required to enable future exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit.

NASA continues to solicit the help of the best and brightest minds in academia, industry, and government to drive innovation and enable solutions in a myriad of important technology thrust areas.

These planned investments are addressing high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep-space exploration. In fact, NASA’s space tech team will launch seven major technology demonstrations in next 24 months.

More information about the LDSD mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/tdm/ldsd/

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in future missions. NASA’s technology investments provide cutting-edge solutions for our nation’s future. For more information about the directorate, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/spacetech

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  • Tonya

    Key point after reading the fact sheet, payload to surface capability should increase from 1.5mt to 2->3mt. Still some way to go before we’re reaching double digits.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Anyone know how this works? In layman’s language. 🙂

  • therealdmt

    Being able to land at higher elevations will really open up some interesting areas for exploration. Now, basically half the planet’s surface is at too high an elevation for there to be sufficient atmosphere for today’s deceleration systems to work (traveling through to little air density for too short of a distance/time for parachutes to be effective enough).

  • windbourne

    In a nutshell, imagine a LARGE dragon that is made of inflatable fabric/plastic. Very lightweight. The bottom can withstand the temps, while hitting more and more atmosphere.

    http://d1jqu7g1y74ds1.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/ldsd2.png

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypercone_(spacecraft)